Google introduced indoor maps inside the new Google Maps 6.0 for Android last week. We did a simple experiment.
As a shopper, we zoomed into one of the indoor maps of a local Home Depot and searched for “paint.” We were automatically repositioned to the Lowe’s hardware store down the road.
Not what we – or Home Depot – expected.
Google can help get customers to the front door of the store. But what happens after the customer goes into the store – both virtually and physically – needs to be carefully evaluated.
For customers, it’s a likely win. Customers get helpful information on how a store is set up, where to find products and, potentially, relevant deals.
For retailers, it’s not so straightforward. Google’s announcement talked about indoor maps and location technologies, but their business model remains unrevealed.
We’ll walk through the top three considerations for retailers.
Question 1: What will be presented to your customer?
When a customer is actually in a store or looking at an indoor map, what will Google present?
Once the retailer has done the critical work of getting a customer into their store, the retailer needs to know their ads and products will be shown.
A customer inside a store is a high-value target for advertisers and a lucrative revenue opportunity for Google. It is likely that Google’s indoor maps will operate with Google’s very successful AdWords model where algorithms decide which ads to present and are biased toward the highest bidder – which can easily be a competitor.
“It can’t be a process where we invite Google in and then pay them to keep the competition out,” said one retailer.
Question 2: Who determines your customer’s experience?
Will Google be delivering the same “Google experience” to all customers? Can retailers customize the Google presentation to deliver their own valued customer experience?
Once inside a store, the customer expects the retailer’s brand promise in every interaction. The customer experience must be consistent and aligned with all of the other channels the retailer is using.
In short, this needs to be a unique presentation for each retailer.
Question 3: Who owns your customer?
This question has at least two important components.
First, if a customer is “trained” to use the Google app while they are in the store, they are de facto a Google customer first and the retailer’s customer second.
Second, by using the Google app and the Google platform, the customer data and customer insights – such as behaviors, preferences, and search terms – are, at best, owned by and available to Google.
Will Google be able to “sell” that information to the retailer’s competition? When the customer is in a competitor’s store, will your insights be used to support the competition?
Next steps for retailers
While Google’s business model is open to question, it is clear that indoor maps and indoor location services point to exciting new opportunities for retailers.
Point Inside has been successfully creating indoor maps for a number of years. We realized early that indoor mapping was a starting point for something much larger: a new era in how retailers and shoppers engage each other.
Understanding that a customer is inside a store – and where inside the store – enables a highly targeted engagement. Controlling the communications through a “private ad network” owned and managed by a retailer is a powerful asset.
Retailers can work directly with their suppliers and partners to deliver messages and turn the private network into a significant revenue generator while also driving additional in-store revenue.
Bottom (and top) Line
Retailers should make thoughtful decisions about how to best engage Google. Customers in your stores deserve your presentation, your products and your brand.
One thing is clear: Don’t turn your stores into an advertising marketplace you need to buy your way back into.